Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: Epilogue

May 29th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

 

Photograph of Forrest Bassett in The Beloiter yearbook, 1916

Forrest Bassett’s senior picture in the
Beloit Memorial High School yearbook, The Beloiter, 1916.
The quotation accompanying his picture is “without my camera, I would be lost.”
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

We have reached the last of Forrest’s letters from Fort Leavenworth. By May 31, 1918, he had reached Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina. Forrest’s experiences there are documented in a collection of his letters at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. According to Army Transport Service passenger lists, Forrest and the other members of Co. A left New York City, heading for Europe, on July 7, 1918, aboard the Darro. He returned to the United States almost a year later: on June 3, 1919, he set sail from Brest, France, on board the USS Mount Vernon. This was almost eight months after the armistice but only a week after the Treaty of Versailles formally ended World War I.

Forrest and Marie were married on March 6, 1920, in Beloit, Wisconsin. They had two children: Sally Ann Bassett (1930- ) and Terrence Shaw Bassett (1932-1996).

Photograph of Forrest and Marie Bassett on their twenty-fifth anniversary, March 6, 1945

Forrest and Marie Bassett on their twenty-fifth anniversary, March 6, 1945.
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Sally Ann Bassett's twentieth birthday, March 22, 1950

Forrest, Marie, and Terrence Bassett celebrating Sally’s twentieth birthday, March 22, 1950.
A note on the back of the photograph says “Ethel [Marie’s sister?] came down and took this for us.
(The cake is a chocolate ice box cake made with ladyfingers. It was good. You’d have liked it, I know.)”
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

According to Forrest’s obituary in the Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette, he was employed for forty years at Yates-American Machine Co. After retiring, he worked for ten years in the credit department at Dane Aluminum Co. Forrest was a member of numerous community organizations, including American Legion Post No. 48, William J. Huemphner World War I Barracks, the Second Congregational Church, and the Men’s Garden and Beloit Camera clubs.

According to Marie’s obituary in the Janesville Gazette, she was a teacher of speech and oral interpretation for many years. She also worked as a secretary for the Freeman Shoe Company, Yates-American Machine Co., Fairbanks Morse, and the Second Congregational Church, and she served as coordinator of volunteers at the Beloit Senior Center. An “accomplished actress, singer, and solo dramatist,” Marie was a founding member of Beloit Civic Theatre and served on its board of directors. She was also a member and former president of the group Treble Clef.

Photograph of the Bassett family, undated

Forrest and Marie Bassett with their children Sally and Terrence, undated.
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

Forrest died on August 3, 1985; Marie died October 8, 1992. They are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Special thanks to the staff at the Beloit Historical Society for locating and scanning the images included in this post.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: May 21-27, 1918

May 21st, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

This week’s letters focus primarily on Forrest’s examination of his relationship with Marie. “Well I wonder what other folks would think if they read my letters like this one,” he wrote on May 27, 1918. “Other boys don’t write like this I am sure and maybe I am wrong in doing so. Please tell me exactly what you think.” Other highlights from this week’s letters include Forrest waiting to leave Fort Leavenworth (“we are still at Fort Leavenworth but still always expecting to leave the next day”) and advising Marie to become a “true Outdoor Girl” (“a girl should be as much a lover of good active outdoor fun as any boy, but at the same time keep all her girlish ways”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 22, 1918

Click image to enlarge.

May 22, 1918.

Dear Marie;

I am writing this little note because the Y.M.C.A. secretary is just leaving for the Post Office.

We are quite sure of leaving Fort Leavenworth tomorrow. I think we are to join the Sixth Division in Carolina. (S. or N.?) This does not mean that we will go to France soon, however.

Keep right on writing to me whenever I am, please.

With love,
Forrest.

 

May 22, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I just finished a little note for you, so it would be mailed right away, so will write my letter now. Did you get all of my letters last week? I think I wrote two and another, typewritten, one about telegraphy. You read my “Morse” letter OK. I just got your letter of the 18th & 19th this noon. Please keep a little note of the dates on your letters and then when you get my letters notice the dates on them and tell me so that I can be sure no letters are lost.

I located Morse’s company Monday night but he wasn’t there so I left a note on his bunk. Last night he came down to the Cantonments but it was after 9:30 P:M. so we had very little time to get acquainted.

Now please do not think I am even the least bit “peeved” because you wrote but once last week. I realize that you have not the time to write as often as I like to hear from you.

Marie, I know you must love me very much as there is not the slightest touch of insincerity in your letters. And I know you too well to misunderstand you, I think. And, Marie I know you do not doubt me in the least, either. It’s simply impossible for me to make you feel how very much I care, and I guess it would be better that you do not know, anyway. You must remember that I have told you that we can never “belong to eachother,” and that we can never be more than good friends. Now Marie you simply must believe this. I would not tell you this if I were not sure of it, for it hurts me and I believe it hurts you, too, in a way. You will remember that I told you that if I were not very sure you would be glad to forget me in a few years, that I would not write another letter. I still say the same. For awhile last year I had hopes of your being “my little girl” some day but I no longer can hope that even if I were free to come back home now. There is no “little message” between the lines of my letters to you – except that I love you to the utmost. However, it is all useless and so I shall never mention my love for you again.

It may be better to “love some one you can’t have, than to have someone you can’t love,” but that isn’t right either way.

Yes, I remember the little incidents you spoke of. The violets down below the pasture and the buried flowers at the “Big Hills.” And I remember the slippers, too. I have the picture of you on the porch rail with the kitten and you look so big and so close, just as if I could just open my arms and hold you close. Marie, some day you will realize how unworthy I am, then you will not care.

Will not you try to be my friend, but at the same time forget your love for me?

I do not want to forget my love for you because it helps me so much in so many ways.

And you also help Mother and Dad so much, and you don’t suspect how much they really love you. In her last letter Mother writes, “Marie has just gone. She is a ray of sunshine just now flashing in and out, with her cheery smile and “Hello, how’s everybody?” ”

It is such a perfect picture of you as I would want you to be always.

I would like to write about Physical Culture but it is “lights out” time now.

Forget all about telegraphy – Please.

Well I must leave you for this time.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

May 26, 1918.

Dear Marie,

We are still at Fort Leavenworth but still always expecting to leave the next day. The trip to Camp Wadsworth will take five days and we are having trouble getting pullman cars.

Your letter of the 23rd came yesterday noon and I was going to answer it last night but I started a letter to Gladys Warren, a sister of a good friend of mine, which was interrupted by Morse, who came down for a visit. He stayed until supper time and I walked up to his barracks with him. Morse is sure a fine fellow and I am sorry he and I did not get acquainted sooner. We talked radio, buzzer, and ground telegraph almost half the afternoon.

Your telegraphic message was O.K. In your last letter you told me to tell you exactly what I wanted you to do, to please me the most so I am going to take that liberty.

Regarding telegraphing I would advise you to drop it entirely. Don’t waste time on a thing of no value to you unless you find real fun in it. My pet weakness during the last five or six years was studying too much, too many different things. Radio and buzzer telegraphy, photography, chemistry and a half a dozen other hobbies all had a hold on me and I spent time studying technical books which I might better have spent otherwise. I don’t want to pat myself on the back too hard but I believe that my understanding of the theory of radio is better than that of the average man in the Company and for photography, the Personnel Officer from Washington told Captain Murphy that I had the best technical knowledge of photography of any of the 80,000 men he had examined. But what have I gained by it? The long hours I spent at home studying these things have paid me back very poorly and I look back at that waste of time with a good healthy feeling of regret: So please let me caution you against studying too much outside of school. Of course photography is a worthwhile hobby which I expect to be of value to me. If you really like telegraphy as a recreation go to it but remember that swimming & outdoor sports of all kinds are absolutely the best and I would say necessary for a normal life.

I am certainly glad that you have the opportunity to learn to ride and sure do hope that you will make the most of it. The drill book gives some interesting dope on riding and the managing of saddle horses. Spend all the time you can outdoors – swimming, hiking, bicycle riding, tennis or anything else.

What wouldn’t I give to be with you this summer. Just when we have learned to understand eachother and love, we are separated. Marie you have my full unselfish love and it urges me to help you to my limit.

You will never understand me, maybe, but my own sisters don’t either.

In your last letter you hoped that my next letter from 7th, would be a “nice” one. Well I don’t know what you thought of the one I wrote last but I simply had to write that way. I told you that I would never mention my love for you again and I mean it.

Do you realize that you are only fifteen (right?) years old and yet we talk of belonging to eachother. Marie I do love you and you only and I believe you love me – more than you should. It is dead wrong for you to think of me as you do. You are shutting yourself from other boys and that is one thing I am dead against. Of course I realize that you are too young to be going to theatres, etc., a great deal with boys – but anyway it’s your thoughts.

Judging from your letters this Spring, I have put the idea in your mind that I am a little better in some ways than the next fellow – and then the more I said in the opposite, the more you believed it. Forget it.

Well I will put it to you this way – You were only fourteen years old last year I think. We became acquainted and were together a great deal and I am sure that I learned your ways, your character and your whole self as well or better than my own sister. And even though you were, and are, so young, I learned to love you as I have never loved anyone else – and it’s the purest and most unselfish love anyone can give. The greatest thing I could look forward to would be to make you my own, and I feel positive that I never will marry unless it is you. For I never could be satisfied with anyone else after caring as I do for you.

Now you must feel that I am in earnest and sincere in what I am writing.

But I want you to know that I am almost sure that I never will marry – the war not being considered at all, yet I wish and hope that we can remain what we are to eachother, until you are – say – well along in High School. Please tell me exactly what you think and be equally frank and honest with me.

I do love you, Marie, and I do want you to love me, too, but please have other good friends among boys. It must seem queer to you to read this, but there are a great many things to think of and I want us to avoid any mistakes.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

May 27, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I have read your letter of the 23rd over and over again today although it came two days ago. There is something in the letters from my little Make believe Sister that make me want her so much.

I am glad you tell me about your school work. Please don’t ever think of giving it up. Even if you should fail this semester that would hardly be an excuse for being discouraged.

Play hard outdoors this summer and get plenty of sleep. Don’t allow anything to interfere with a good, complete, refreshing rest every night. It is during these periods of sleep, or at least relaxation, that we grow and are rebuilt. So don’t fail to realize the importance of early to be, and, if you can, get up when you feel like it. Of course it is hard to sleep during the early hours of a hot night. A short time ago you spoke of often feeling very tired and worn out before the end of the day. Now it is hard for one to be cheerful and happy and also to stand above our little pet weaknesses when he is tired and restless. Get all the real outdoor fun, the real fun of hiking, swimming[,] riding, that you can and try to avoid the things that make you mentally tired. Are you going to stop both your music and elocution lessons? I think that your health and then your school work should come above, and be considered before, anything else.

Have you started to learn to ride yet? What kind of a saddle have you, and how do you like it? Please tell me everything about it.

Do you think you will learn to swim this summer? How about your outdoor girls’ club? Is there any kind of a girls’ camp that you could and would like to go to for a short period during your vacation? Tell me as much as you can about these things.

Make the most of every chance you have to be a true Outdoor Girl. Everyone loves a Tomboy girl if she can be a real Girl at the same time.

A girl should be as much a lover of good active outdoor fun as any boy, but at the same time keep all her girlish ways.

Well I wonder what other folks would think if they read my letters like this one. Other boys don’t write like this I am sure and maybe I am wrong in doing so. Please tell me exactly what you think.

I guess I am just telling you the kind of a girl that appeals to me – or rather one reason why I love a little girl whose deep brown eyes are so full of warmth and love.

Marie, no one can see you and know you without loving you and I am glad that I know you so well.

Well please answer my letters as soon as you can and talk to me about everything.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: May 14-20, 1918

May 14th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

This week’s letter focuses on the uncertainty of Forrest’s future (“we are still here and still at loss as to what the next move will be”) and Marie’s concern, presumably about him going to Europe (“you simply must not feel sorry that I am going”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 14, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 14, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 14, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

May 14, 1918.

Dear Marie,

We are still here and still at loss as to what the next move will be. Everything is all set for a quick move, and while the bets seem to be even, I think that we will be here for a while yet and want you to keep on writing.

But be sure to write only in answer to each of my letters for a while, and I will try to write often, but of course it will be hard telling how often.

We had a big parade after supper and were reviewed by all the high officials of the Post.

We thoroughly scrubbed out the barracks today. Are still allowed to go to town.

Now Marie, you simply must not feel sorry that I am going; it will do neither of us any good and will do you harm if you persist in thinking and worrying about it. If you don’t completely change your way of thinking you will surely regret it.

Be as happy and contented as you can, and stop worrying.

I shall stop writing about telegraphy until I see you have caught up with what I have written.

I shall never mention Earl*, the sooner we forget some things the more cheerful we will be and that’s what counts with those that would live the fullest life, with health and the best things that go with it.

Must close,
With love,
F.

*Earl Treadway was Forrest’s older half-brother, born 1881. Last week’s letters suggest that Earl had recently been ill; he died around May 10 and was buried on May 12, 1918. He was thirty-seven years old.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: May 7-13, 1918

May 7th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

This week’s letters focus on telegraphy and Morse code, with Forrest sprinkling in news and advice to Marie: “whatever you do, you simply must get plenty of sleep“; “It would be fine if you could join an organization of real outdoor girls“; and “please be careful not to be too much in love with the Camp Grant boys because that sure would make me jealous.”

 

May 7, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I sure did miss your letters but know you must be very busy, especially this part of the school term. That is one reason why I was afraid to interest you in telegraphy. Whatever you do, you simply must get plenty of sleep. Remember that nothing is so absolutely important as one’s physical health and I believe that in your case, the early to bed stunt is most necessary. So don’t you ever dare to write again and tell me that it is 10 or 10:30 P:M, and you aren’t in bed yet. Some time I will write you a letter about Physical Culture, but to tell the truth I still have hopes of seeing you again and it would be better for me to talk than write about it. However I want to say a few words about sour milk. The only difference between the sour milk I used to drink and common butter milk is that ordinary butter milk lacks the fat, or cream – which is not important. I wouldn’t bother to sour the whole-milk, but would prefer to buy the butter milk, unless the soured milk tasted better.

I am glad you decided to learn to telegraph. Do you want the key to stay on my desk and use it there, or would you rather have it on a table at 389 Highland? Be sure to tell me just what you want as I am sure Roy [likely Forrest’s older half-brother Roy Treadway, born 1879] would fix it for you if you want it moved. The main thing in fixing a key is to have it on a solid table of the same height as an ordinary writing table or desk. The key must be far enough forward to allow plenty of room for the elbow to rest on the table without being cramped in any way. Also, the key arm must be in a straight line with the operator’s forearm. The position of the arm, wrist, and fingers is the most important thing in telegraphy.

First – the elbow must be supported on the same board, on level with the key. The elbow must rest, without any strain or tension on the muscles of the upper arm or shoulder. Unless the muscles not moving the key knob are relaxed, one will get cramped and tired easily and pretty soon the sender is apt to be victum (?) to a nervous trouble known to telegraphers as “glass arm,” as the arm becomes stiff and uncontrollable.

Second – the position of wrist and fingers. This is perfectly described in the little Signal Drill book, page 321, paragraph 846. Every word in every sentence in # 846 ought to be underlined. Note the picture showing the hand on the key – the position of thum and forefinger, and the curve of the latter. Every time you touch the key knob copy this position faithfully. Also read paragraph 846 p. 321 each time. The quality of your sending will depend on the proper holding of the key knob, and the relaxation of the upper arm, every time. If you haven’t the drill book or can’t find the paragraphs I refer to let me know.

Paragraph 844 page 320 explains about spaces, etc.
(1.) The dot is the unit of time.
(2.) – etc.

I have enclosed a sheet of cross ruled paper [see below] in which each square is a unit. There is no long dash in the radio code[.] It is impossible to make a dash exactly twice as long as a dot or a space between letters twice as long as a space between dashes and dots in a letter as I show on the word “come.” Better make it like this:

C           o        m     e
_._.   _ _ _   _ _    .

Letter space [marked with an arrow between C and O, above].

The letter space must be plenty long enough to thoroughly separate one letter from another.

The word space is longer than the letter space so as to set off each group of letters into words.

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 7, 1918

Click image to enlarge.

“Come Here”

C       O           M   E       H   E    R   E
_._.  _ _ _   _ _  .       ….   .   ._.   .
1   2         2            3    1           1

  1. Space between dots and dashes – as short as possible.
  2. Letter – space – much longer.
  3. Word – space – still longer.

So you see paragraph 844 is mostly theory.

Do you understand this fully now? Read this:

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 7, 1918

Click image to enlarge.

T   h    i   s      i   s        t    h   e       f       o        r   e   s   t          P       r    i   m   e   v      a    l
_   ….  ..  …    ..  …       _  …. .      .._.  _ _ _  ._.  .  …  _      ._ _.  ._.  ..  _ _  .  …_  ._  ._..

T  h   e      m     u    r    m    e   r     i   n     g            p     i   n   e  s       a   n   d       t   h   e       h  e  m     l           o
_  ….  .     _ _  .._  ._.  _ _  .  ._.  ..  _.  _ _.     ._ _.  ..  _.  .  …     ._  _.  _..     _  ….  .     ….  .  _ _  ._..  _ _ _ _

c         k         s
_._.    _._       …

Write each letter above the signal as in the first word

T   H   I    S
_  ….   ..   …  (this) and send it back with your next letter, please.

In my next letter I will tell you how to connect buzzer and key with battery and why and how it works.

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 7, 1918

Click image to enlarge.

Roy can fix them for you.

Well I must quit for this time.

Read paragraphs 845, 846, 847, 849, 850, 851, 852, 853 and 854, but remember that some of the letters in the Morse code are different than in the radio code, but that the method of handling the key is the same.

For instance a Morse J _._. is the same as a radio C _._. , and a Morse numeral 1 is the same as a radio P ._ _.

Well goodnight little girlie.
Forrest.

Tell Mother I got her letter O.K.

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 7, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

 

May 9, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter of the 3rd just came today, so I guess it must have been lost some way.

I most certainly do think that you should get more sleep, as I said in answer to your letter of the 5th. I hope that you will be feeling better in a short time. Have you read “Starving America” through yet? What did you think of it and did you understand the main things pointed out by the author. I have read many books on food but believe that Alfred McCann has the only real common sense ideas on the subject. You will find his writings quite often in “Physical Culture” and his work is endorsed by McFadden in every detail.

It would be fine if you could join an organization of real outdoor girls. Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to some kind of a girls camp for a short time during your school vacation. I had a fine time at the Phantom Lake Y.M.C.A. camp in 1914, and it seems as though there ought to be something similar for girls. Let’s talk more about this; you know I want you to have the best times possible and we may think of lots of things if we write about it.

Was glad to hear that Morse is coming here, for he will never find a better camp with a better bunch of fellows. Be sure to have him look me up.

Are you doing anything with the buzzer yet? Are you sure you are not getting interested in too many things?

I forgot to tell you about a few elementary things in forming letters.

The first thing to do is to practice making dot letters.

E   I   S   H   5
.    ..  …  ….  …..

At first make the dots slowly with a full wrist (not finger movement) always uniformly and accurately.

When you make an i count 1, 2. That is dot, dot. And S would be 1, 2, 3; H would be 1, 2, 3, 4; just the same as counting time in music. The above is simple enough but some amateurs have trouble in combining dots and dashes without having too much space between the last dot and the first dash.

For instance the letter A = E+T or . _ , but there must be very little space between the dot and the dash —  ._ and not . _ . The count is 1, 2 (the same as in I ..) and not 1, and 1.

In making the letter “S,” which is three dots, the count is 1, 2, 3. Also, the letter U, which is two dots, dash, is counted 1, 2, 3 holding 3 so as to form a dash instead of a dot. Again, F is counted the same way; .._. is 1, 2, 3–, 1. V is …_ or 1, 2, 3, 4–. and not …  _  [1 2 3, 1]. Do you see? The point is to have the dots connected to the dashes.

It’s the same thing in music. Take 4/4 time: You have quarter notes and whole notes, quarter rests and whole rests. Now a “rest” in music corresponds to a “space” in telegraphy

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 9, 1918

Click image to enlarge.

Do you see?

Now do you understand why to count 1 2 3 and 1 when you make F (.._.) instead of 1, 2,   1, 2.?

If you make F like this . . _ . it is going to sound like the word “in” which is ..  _.  [I N]. Also be careful not to make C (_._.) like double n (_.   _.).

The best thing to do is the connect up that sending board of mine with the buzzer and battery and then if you use it right it will combine the dots and dashes with true mechanical precision and will accustom your ear to the proper sound of each letter. Tell me if you can find this board alright.

Today, Sergeant Baber gave the First Section a speed test in telegraphy and I have been rated at a speed of 20 words per minute, which is the average commercial radio operator’s speed.

Among my magazines you will find the July 1917Wireless Age.” Read the article on page 765, entitled “What Women Can Do, and Are Doing.” If you can’t find it I will send it to you.

With love,
Forrest.

 

May 11, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I think you got two letter this week didn’t you? Will be expecting a visit from Morse pretty soon now but can’t see how you expect me to like him if you like him nearly as well as you like me. And please be careful not to be too much in love with the Camp Grant boys because that sure would make me jealous.

I thought your reading, “The Service Flag” was good. Are you still taking both elocution and music? It seems to me you must be pretty busy, and I am not sure it would be a good thing for you to learn telegraphy.

What are your plans for this summer’s vacation, and what grade will you be in if you “pass” in June? Please really be my “little sister” and tell me more about yourself and what you intend to do.

Well I am going to go ahead and tell you more about telegraphy, but want you to tell me whether or not you really want to take the time and trouble to study it in earnest. If you you do want to learn it I will do a lot more to help you.

I explained in Mother’s letter, last night, how my transfer from Co A-6 has been blocked by Colonel Allison so you see I should become a pretty fair operator if I keep up with the progress I have already made. Of course it is slow work as telegraphy is only a small fraction of the “stuff” a signalman has to learn and we don’t get very much practice with it.

I am going to try to explain in as simple a manner as possible how the apparatus works. Now please be fair and tell me if you don’t really understand any of the things I try to explain because I am sure I can make everything quite plain and clear if you just tell me what you don’t “get.”

So hear goes with a few definitions, descriptions, etc. especially revised and calculated for a buzzer telegraph student.

— Will mail in a separate envelope – F.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 12, 1918

Click image to enlarge.

May 12, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter about Earl [Forrest’s older half-brother Earl Treadway, born 1881]* came this morning and will be on the lookout for more news. Sure do hope everything comes out alright.

Mother must be having an awful time of it.

Don’t let them kid you about Physical Culture, nor about the “Buzzer” either.

If you get time send me a buzzer message. Use the typewriter for the dots and dashes if you want to.

With love,
Forrest.

*Earl Treadway had apparently died after Marie sent her letter to Forrest but before the date Forrest wrote this letter; Earl was buried on May 12, 1918. He was thirty-seven years old.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 13, 1918

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May 13, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Don’t write to me at Fort Leavenworth. Wait until you hear from me again.

Tell all the folks not to write until they hear.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 30-May 6, 1918

April 30th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

Highlights from this week’s letters include a report on muster day (“all Signal troops were inspected by the Colonel; the first time since I’ve been here. It sure was some big doings alright and I wish you could have seen it”) and a thorough explanation of Morse code and telegraphy (“you say you are crazy to learn but I want to caution you that it takes practice with lots of patience – the same as music or anything else”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

April 30, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I sure am mighty sorry I didn’t write to you oftener this month, You are one real little sweetheart to continue writing and I will remember that. I wish you could just belong to me, for there isn’t another girl in the world as lovable as you. I am going to do my best to write at least twice a week next month.

Here are a few snapshots of “A”-men. The ones of the Battalion at Retreat are not good because they were taken late in the afternoon, against the sun. The one of M.S.E. McKelvey gives but a glimpse of the elaborate radio equipment on the radio tractor. We are very proud of our band and it has been highly complimented by outsiders.

I am not in the Photographic Section yet and will consider myself lucky if I get there during May. My application has to go to the Chief Signal Officer at Washington, and then a lot more red-tape I’m afraid.

Today is muster day and all Signal troops were inspected by the Colonel; the first time since I’ve been here. It sure was some big doings alright and I wish you could have seen it.

Well I must cut this short or I won’t be able to get in my pictures, but will write again very soon.

With love,
Forrest.

Please tell me if these pictures don’t come in good condition when sent this way.  FWB.

 

May 3, 1918.

Dear Marie,

The Company has been digging trenches this afternoon and I am a little tired from the snappy pick swinging, so will only write about telegraphy this time. You say you are crazy to learn but I want to caution you that it takes practice with lots of patience – the same as music or anything else. And here is the point:

If you try it at all do your best – not simply to be able to tap the key like some “ham,” but really strive for some degree of perfection. If you don’t want to go at it seriously the same as you do your elocution, do not waste your time – for no time is so utterly wasted as time spent doing a thing half way.

I don’t want to scare you away from learning to telegraph but simply want to warn you not to start something that you haven’t the interest nor enthusiasm to see through.

So think it over and let me know if you want to learn to be as good an operator as the average commercial radio operator. Girl radio amateurs have shown real ability, and right now the government has women teaching telegraphy to Signal Corps recruits.

And again let me say that you have the “stuff” in you to make a first class operator, not a “Morse butcher,” as we call one who chops out the dots and dashes in ragtime.

Telegraphy is similar to playing the piano in that one has to consider “time” and rythm, also one must hold the fingers, wrist and forearm correctly to send well with the key. When you hear the clatter of telegraph instruments in an office, did you ever stop to think that every little combination of dots and dashes forms a letter? Take the word “receive” for instance:

R|E|C|E|I|V|E|

Morse =  · ··|·|·· ·|·|··|···-|·

Radio =   ·-·|·|-·-·|·|··|···-|·

The American Morse is a little harder to receive because if the letters are run together an R (· ··) can’t be distinguished from EI (·|··) nor a C (·· ·) from IE (··|·) However the European Morse (radio) is better because there are no spaces between parts of one letter. R is (·-·), C is (-·-·), Y is (-·–) instead of (·· ··).

Of course I am taking it for granted that you know what a dot or a dash, or a space is; if you don’t be sure to speak up.

The slightest error in time length of the dots, dashes, and spaces makes one’s best efforts a jumble of unreadable Morse. So you see one must cultivate that sense of time and rythm the same as you do in music. It is easier in telegraphy than in music but at the same time more important

“And” (·-|-·|-··) will sometimes sound like “p’d” (·–·|-··) if it is sent rapidly without proper spacing.

Well you see I am making an awful fuss about accuracy and clearness in transmitting (sending) because anyone with enough practice can read telegraphy at any speed when it is sent properly.

Suppose you were learning to read and write in Greek or any language in which the writing is absolutely different than English. You would first have to learn to draw (not write) each letter, which would be similar to “sending” in radio; and then you would have to learn to recognize each letter, written by another person, which would be similar to “receiving” in radio.

If this is too big a strain on your imagination, then just consider how a 1-B pupil learns to read write.

I am pointing this out to make you see how very simple receiving in radio is.

At first you will think of C as dash, dot, dash, dot (-·-·) but after awhile you will forget the dots and dashes and think of the sound of the combined dots and dashes. For instance when you read you don’t look at each separate letter in a word but you see the whole word at a glance and recognize it without thought of the letters composing it.

I am analyzing these steps in one’s progress in learning telegraphy simply to make you see that it is simply a matter of time and patient practice.

Now for the amount of practice for best results. I wouldn’t advise practising too long at a time – and only when you are “all keyed up” for it. If you feel that you can spare a half an hour or forty minutes each day you will learn fast, and I believe you will like it and find it well worth the effort.

If you decide to try it, I want you to use my telegraph key, as it is a J.H. Bunnell key, which is the best on the market, and is almost “brand new.” Also you may find that sending board of mine useful – do you remember the thing I mean? Well I have a lot more to tell you if you want to go ahead so tell me one way or the other in your next letter.

When you get started, if you do, you will be surprised to find how easy it all is.

Will have to call ten pages enough this time. My next letter will be “nice.”

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant